OTTAWA – The age-old saying that practice makes perfect proved true for Jennifer Wakefield in Canada’s 3-2 shootout win over the United States at the women’s world hockey championship on Tuesday night.
The Canadians rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game in the third period and when a round of three shooters per team failed to produce a winner, the game went to extra shots.
Wakefield was Canada’s first shooter and she fooled American goalie Jessie Vetter by roofing a backhand shot for the winning goal.
"I’ve done it before in practice but never in a game,’’ said Wakefield, who was strong for the Canadians. "I’ll have to try it again.
"It was awesome [to score]. I thought about jumping into the boards to celebrate but a lot of credit goes to [goalie Shannon] Szabados who stopped three of four shots in the shootout."
Team USA sent Hilary Knight over the boards in hope she could knot the score again, but Szabados had other plans. She made the save and sent the crowd of 11,174 at SBP Arena home on a chilly night with a victory to celebrate. Szabados stopped 24 of 26 shots in net for the win.
Canadians fall behind early
The Canadians didn’t exactly play their best in the opening period and trailed 2-0 at the first intermission. One of the problems was a flat power play that looked pretty at passing the puck, but failed to produce anything in terms of bonafide scoring chances.
"I think we need to sharpen up our power play, quite honestly,’’ said coach Dan Church. "It wasn’t good enough tonight."
The Canadians were slightly better in the second period, but they were at their best in the third when they took control and tied the game with goals by Rebecca Johnston and Catherine Ward.
"Down but never out,’’ said defenceman Tessa Bonhomme. "It is never quit with us. We owed it to Shannon to come out and start challenging their goalie. We made it pretty easy on her and that is what we did. We started getting pucks to the net and we started creating traffic and things went our way.
"As the third period went on, I thought our players took charge,’’ added Church. "Our big bodies used their size down low. We just chipping away, which was good."
Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser left the game seven minutes into the second period and did not return. Wickenheiser suffered a knee injury last week in a club team competition and Church did not disclose whether the veteran of 12 world champions hurt the same knee.
"She will re-evaluated and we will get an update in [Wednesday] morning,’’ he said.
In other tournament-openers, the Czech Republic upset Sweden 3-2 in their world championship debut and Russia blanked Germany 4-0 in Group B games. Finland edged Switzerland 2-1 in the other Group A game.
The top two teams in Group A earn byes to Monday's semifinals. The bottom two meet the top two from Group B in the quarter-finals with the winners advancing to the semis. The bottom two teams in Group B play in the relegation round.
The Canadians are the defending champions after beating the Americans in last year's final in Burlington, Vt.